The Kalahari – San/Bushmen Style *Videos*
I’ve always been enamored with idea of visiting the Kalahari Desert. Even the name “Kalahari” –meaning Land of Thirst — conjures up all that is intriguing about Africa. So I was thrilled that my Acacia Africa Desert Tracker safari took me to see the Kalahari and meet the San/Bushmen.
The San/Bushman (as they call themselves) are the indigenous people of Southern Africa and an ancient hunter-gatherer society. About 90,000 San/Bushmen remain, with more than half living in Botswana.
Their original domain spanned 8 countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. Today, their territory of the Kalahari Desert is about the size of Denmark.
All San/Bushmen now live in settlements after a forced relocation policy in the mid-1990s. The San/Bushmen we talked with said there are only about 4 true San/Bushmen still living in the bushveld: a family comprising a husband, wife and 2 daughters; and 1 crazy dude.
Here’re the highlights of our day (and night) spent in the San/Bushmen village of Xana:
Trance Dancing: After dinner around the campfire, my tent-mate Lucy and I went to view the San/Bushmen dance ceremony. Supposedly these celebratory and healing dances haven’t changed in more than 20,000 years!
The male dancers were wearing traditional dress (or rather, un-dress) with rattles of beans and shells strapped to their lower legs. The women were sitting around the fire, providing rhythmic clapping and intonations.
During the dance, the stomping and clapping would start slowly, building in tempo before reaching a crescendo. I have to admit – it was mesmerizing! Check it out!
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: http://youtu.be/yVIEdAI2pAQ /
Bush Walk: In the morning, our entire group was escorted on a walk through the bushveld by our San/Bushmen guides and our interpreter Robert. Each individual in the guiding party showed us an aspect of traditional San/Bushmen life, like:
- How to suck water out of the sand using a reed straw.
- Which plants were used to heal injuries, for contraception, and as an herbal form of Viagra.
- How plants were used to dye their leather clothing to make it soft.
One of the young men we met, Dusa Sekere, was learning to be a healer. Here’s our conversation with him:
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: http://youtu.be/nJX2Vl_O6Uw
Supporting the San/Bushmen
Within the last generation, the San/Bushmen have been forced to abandon their traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle. If you are interested in supporting the San/Bushmen as they build a new economic and political base, there are 4 NGOs that are based in the Kalahari town of Ghanzi:
- Ghanzi Craft – Providing economic upliftment of the San/Bushmen through the development of craft skills and the marketing of Bushman crafts.
- Kuru Development Trust – Base in D’Kar, the trust supports community projects like leather work, arts, crafts, and other agricultural projects.
- First People of the Kalahari – Serving as the international mouthpiece for all San/Bushmen communities, this is the only NGO trying to empower the San/Bushmen through the political process.
- Permaculture Trust – Working at the grassroots level to promote sustainable vegetation and income generation for the San/Bushmen.
Keeping the Kalahari Alive!
The San/Bushman of the Kalahari are working hard to keep their traditions alive. I’m really psyched we got to experience some of their ancient culture. I believe tour excursions such as our Kalahari trek are vital to helping preserve and promote the San/Bushman desert heritage.
This activity was part of my Acacia Africa 19-day Desert Tracker safari from Cape Town, South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia. It was an unforgettable experience and I highly recommend you check them out if you’re planning an Africa adventure!
This entry was posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011 and is filed under Africa.